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The Role of Technology in Political Economy: Part 2
by Yochai Benkler / July 26, 2018

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lamenting how tech is either treated too optimistically, or ignored (by left-leaning academics)

Benkler, Y. (2018, July 26). The Role of Technology in Political Economy: Part 2. Law and Political Economy. https://lpeblog.org/2018/07/26/the-role-of-technology-in-political-economy-part-2/

But the driving assumption was that (a) contrary to both SBTC and its neighbors and Polanyi, technology was very much a function of institutions; (b) cutting edge innovation did not have to follow one narrow “most-efficiency creating” path, but that there was meaningful choice in how innovation progressed; and (c) contrary to the primary explanations of inequality as a function of institutions (deunionization; erosion of minimum wage, etc.), technology had a significant independent role in structuring social relations in the economy, such that winning battles over the dominant designs of the technology could be independently more powerful at structuring social relations than winning political battles or institutional changes that directly regulate those social relations. In its most ambitious version, it could mean that winning political battles over free software or open source hardware could make people better able to live independent lives than winning political battles over labor or employment law. The past decade has led me to be more skeptical of this stronger claim on behalf of technology [...]

"technology could be independently more powerful at structuring social relations than winning political battles or institutional changes that directly regulate those social relations" is a good thing to cite (possibly in reference to techno-utopians)

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago

But the driving assumption was that (a) contrary to both SBTC and its neighbors and Polanyi, technology was very much a function of institutions; (b) cutting edge innovation did not have to follow one narrow “most-efficiency creating” path, but that there was meaningful choice in how innovation progressed; and (c) contrary to the primary explanations of inequality as a function of institutions (deunionization; erosion of minimum wage, etc.), technology had a significant independent role in structuring social relations in the economy, such that winning battles over the dominant designs of the technology could be independently more powerful at structuring social relations than winning political battles or institutional changes that directly regulate those social relations. In its most ambitious version, it could mean that winning political battles over free software or open source hardware could make people better able to live independent lives than winning political battles over labor or employment law. The past decade has led me to be more skeptical of this stronger claim on behalf of technology [...]

"technology could be independently more powerful at structuring social relations than winning political battles or institutional changes that directly regulate those social relations" is a good thing to cite (possibly in reference to techno-utopians)

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago

[...] technology develops as a function of institutional choices; that it is the subject of politics and the site of politics; and that it makes a difference.

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago

[...] technology develops as a function of institutional choices; that it is the subject of politics and the site of politics; and that it makes a difference.

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago

This intellectual state of affairs leaves those of us working on technology and inequality with an intellectual challenge. Our closest allies in economics, labor economists who do focus on institutions, leave little room for technology to play any role. Those economists who do pay a lot of attention to technology, tend to treat it as natural and necessary, not itself the product of politics and institutions, and largely as a constraint on the ambition of pursuing an egalitarian economic program.

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago

This intellectual state of affairs leaves those of us working on technology and inequality with an intellectual challenge. Our closest allies in economics, labor economists who do focus on institutions, leave little room for technology to play any role. Those economists who do pay a lot of attention to technology, tend to treat it as natural and necessary, not itself the product of politics and institutions, and largely as a constraint on the ambition of pursuing an egalitarian economic program.

by Yochai Benkler 3 years, 5 months ago